Thanks everyone! I'm glad my first showing didn't disappoint!
Tom72 - I'm still a little confused about the charcoal consumption too. The only thing I can figure is that I'm wasting a LOT of energy bringing the smoker up to temp. I've done 2 cooks and both times I've used a propane torch to lite 2 opposite corners of the basket, let is sit until there's an area about the size of a softball going at both ends, then put the basket in and add (HOT) water to the pan but leave the diverter out until it's up to temp. I think that a lot of energy is going into heating the cold space of the cooking chamber slowly around the water. On my next cook I'm going to try putting the charcoal in and leaving the water tray out for a few minutes to see if it'll heat the chamber more efficiently. When I started this cook it was 8am, and the smoker had been sitting in the cool night air (relatively cool - it is summer in Georgia after all) all night long. The smoker hadn't been out warming in the sun or anything. I'm also going to get to work on modding the basket to hold some more charcoal. You can definitely pile on the briquettes and make it work, but I do enjoy my lump and have about 10 bags to burn. I also enjoy not having to clean up enough charcoal ash that it could be measured in pounds. By the end of the cook, the ash had nearly choked out the bottom of the basket.
Bob - I'm not thrilled about the amount of fat that I have to pay for either. Everything I've seen indicates that if you buy the flat by itself you pay double by the pound compared to the packer. It looks like the butchers basically consider the fat and point to be wasted weight. I'm fairly ok with that considering that fatcap does help protect the underside of the flat, and I'm sure those burnt ends would've been good too if I had the time to cook them. Check out Wal-Mart for your next packer. I hate to say that; I've definitely been one to bad-mouth their meat in the past, but this packer was pretty nice. The local grocery (Kroger) only had 1 full packer. The price was within 10 cents per pound to Wal-Mart's, but it didn't look too nice. Wal-Mart had about 12 packers ranging from 7 lbs to 17 lbs, and they all looked pretty well cut.
I'm not sure how I got the smoke ring. I was pretty happy with myself on that one too. All I know is that I set the packer out first thing, lit the charcoal, seasoned the packer, and let it sit until the smoker came up to temp. All in all it was out for about an hour before it hit the smoker. There was still a little bit of white smoke when I put the packer on, but most of it had settled way down at that point. I had about 4 chunks of apple wood in the basket to start as well.
Again, thanks everyone for the remarks!
18.5" WSM, Large BGE, Backwoods Party
Blue BBQGuru DigiQ DX2